The hype: Remember watching Woo Wai Leong battle it out with Malaysian contender Marcus Low at the finale of the very first season of MasterChef Asia in 2015? Well, we do, and we can still remember how tense that final episode was. Fast forward three years, and Leong now has his own restaurant up and running.
The vibe: You’ll immediately notice the oriental touches like the medicinal cabinet drawers and the Chinese latticed window frame-inspired shelves set against a bright and otherwise minimally decorated space. It’s like a prelude to what you’ll taste in Leong’s menu—touches of Nanyang orientalism that stands out thanks to a more muted, but still prominent backdrop. Opt to take a seat by the open kitchen counter and chat with the MasterChef Asia winner himself as you dine.
The food: The course dinner menu is the way to go here, and are reasonably priced at $78, $88 and $118 for four, six (best value), and eight courses respectively. You get to choose from the starters, mains and dessert portions of the menu, and there are no “filler” items as all the dishes are worth having for different reasons.
Still, a clear standout dish is the tea egg soubise. Taking reference from the popular Chinese street food, Leong presents an elevated version using sous vide organic egg yolk, a pu-er tea plus mandarin peel broth (instead of onion), and fried ginkgo nuts. The result is a brothy dish that actually bears little resemblance to the street snack, but nonetheless stellar thanks to a fine marriage of flavors and textures—creamy, tart and tea fragrance in unison.
The white radish porridge, inspired by the century egg congee we get at hawkers here, is another highlight. It’s an earthy, warm and comforting dish, and great to have after snacking on their flavorsome and appetizing spring onion shaobing, for a change in pace. And if you’ve ever been to one of Leong’s pop-up restaurants, you’ll notice a familiar dish, the short rib, on the menu too. Get it even if you’ve tried a version of it before. Here, the pungent (and nostalgic) medicinal aromas of angelica root is used expertly to not overpower the beef.
Other must-tries are the lotus rice with foie gras and liver sausage, and also the desserts, that are also fancier versions of dishes we’re familiar with. There are only two desserts on the menu now, one based on the ubiquitous soy milk drink and the other inspired by glutinous rice balls. If we had to choose, we’d go for the soy milk one, that’s basically a soy ice-cream with sesame cake. You’d think it’ll be a heavy dessert, but is actually really light and low in sweetness, making spoonful after spoonful of it that much more guiltless.
The drinks: Leong, being bar-trained, is currently working to come up with a cocktail menu that pairs well with his cuisine. For now, there is a handpicked selection of reds and whites that punches well above their price point, with many available by the glass thanks to the restaurant’s investment into a proper recorking system.
Why you’ll be back: How often do you get to have cuisine prepared by a MasterChef winner? Well, as often as you’d like now that Restaurant Ibid is open for business. We’d come back just to try out his cocktails.